In March, the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule aimed at clarifying Clean Water Act (CWA) protections for streams and wetlands. EPA said the proposed rule preserves the CWA exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. But agriculture groups opposed the rule, calling it a “federal land grab”.
“The interpretive rule actually narrows the scope of what is considered normal farming and ranching practices,” said Ashley McDonald, environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. “Practices such as building a fence or grazing cattle have previously never needed a permit. However, without approval of the Natural Resource Conversation Service, producers could face up to $37,500 in fines, per day. This is far from Congressional intent and puts farmers and ranchers livelihoods in jeopardy.”
US Rep. Steve Southerland introduced HR 5078 which also prohibits additional rule that limits existing exemptions for agriculture conservation practices and requires federal agencies to consult with state and local officials to identify which waters should be under federal regulation and waters that states should control.
“I am pleased that the House has acted in a strongly bipartisan fashion to protect the successful federal-state partnership that’s been making our waterways cleaner for over 40 years, Southerland said in a statement. “This bill isn’t anti-environment or anti-clean water. In fact, it’s just the opposite. By preserving this federal-state partnership under the Clean Water Act, we will be able to build upon success stories of the past to keep our waters cleaner in the future. And at a time when hardworking families are struggling to get ahead, we’ve taken an important step forward in restoring the certainty our farmers, manufacturers, and construction and transportation industries need to grow America’s economy.”